17 July 2000
Food safety shake-up targets farmers

By FWi staff

THE most radical shake-up of food safety hygiene rules for 25 years aims to make farmers responsible for the safety of produce grown on their farms.

European Commission proposals unveiled on Monday (17 July) would see Codes of Good Practice introduced in a bid to boost food safety on farms.

The proposals were revealed at a Farm Council meeting in Brussels by David Byrne, the European commissioner for health and consumer protection.

A single, transparent hygiene policy will apply to all food operators – including farmers – in a bid to manage the risk from future food scares, he said.

Mr Byrne said existing legislation was over 30 years old and not designed to fit the high consumer health protection standards in the new millennium.

“We have learnt our lesson from the food crises of the 90s,” he said.

“We are laying the groundwork for filling the gaps in the existing legislation and enhancing food safety throughout the food chain.

Currently, there are significant gaps in food safety rules governing farms, even though a patchwork of rules governs other food sectors, said Mr Byrne.

New regulations will merge, harmonise and simplify very detailed and complex hygiene requirements previously scattered over 17 existing directives.

Compulsory registration of all food businesses will be implemented in an attempt to further improve the traceability of all food and ingredients.

Record-keeping will be required to enable the identification of suppliers of ingredients and foods is made obligatory, said a statement from Brussels.

Producers will also have to put in place procedures for the withdrawal from the market of products presenting a serious risk to consumer health..

There will be specific additional hygiene rules for food of animal origin, such as meat, processed meat products and dairy products.

In comparison with the existing legislation, which is in many respects very detailed and prescriptive, the new rules will be more flexible, said Mr Byrne.

A major Commission initiative to revamp food controls is scheduled in the White Paper for Food Safety timed for September this year, he added.